Homebuilt For 100 Years

July 22, 2011

This week Oshkosh hosts the largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts in the United States. The annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association, dubbed AirVenture in these brand-conscious days, will bring as many as 800,000 visitors to the city and make the usually drowsy Oshkosh airport the busiest in the world.

The EAA began in the Milwaukee suburbs in the early 1950s, the creation of World War II generation men and women led by Paul and Audrey Poberezny. Paul was an Army Air Force veteran, as were many of the Association’s founders. Others were GI-Bill pilots who had taken advantage of the veteran’s program funding for flight instruction after the war.

They were also of that generation of Americans, perhaps the last, who assumed that men should and could work with their hands, either by vocation or avocation. They were the guys who believed in doing it themselves. They clipped plans for home improvement projects out of magazines like Popular Mechanics. The stocked garage workshops with new-fangled power tools, if only to “finish” their basements with knotty-pine paneling. A few of them, like Poberezny and his friends, built their own airplanes.

Homebuilding was the heart and soul of the EAA from its earliest days. It has since grown to be the leading educational, historical and lobbying organization for “general.” i.e. non-commercial aviation, in the United States.  Accordingly, Boeing will show off its new 787 Dreamliner in Oshkosh, Navy and Air Force jets will awe visitors, celebrities, politicians and aviation administrators will show their faces to the crowd, but the heart and soul of the event will be in the thousands of lovingly-crafted homebuilt airplanes lined up row upon row in the grass along side the runways.

John Schwister and his Minnesota-Badger, 1911.

It’s appropriate that a giant flock of homebuilts appear in the skies of Wisconsin in 2011, for this is the 100th anniversary of the first airplane built in our state that was capable of “sustained, controlled” flight. In other words, it was the first machine that could take off, maneuver as directed through the air, and land without the pilot breaking his neck—usually.

The first flight took place in Wausau in June 1911. The builder/pilot was a young man who loved motorcycles and autos that moved fast. His name was John Schwister.

He got the flying bug after reading about the breathtaking exploits of the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss, the other American father of the airplane. With financial help from his employer, C.J. Winton, Schwister started to assemble a copy of the Curtiss Model D in St. Paul in the fall of 1910. In early 1911, he moved to Wausau, completed assembly, and rolled his “Minnesota-Badger” machine out onto the grass in what is now Rothschild.

He taught himself the basics of piloting by hooking a towline from his plane to the fastest auto in town and kiting himself aloft. After a few mishaps requiring radical reassembly he mastered the acrobatics of controlling multi-dimensional movement and was ready to fire up the motor he had special ordered by mail.

Schwister’s first flight was successful. He took off, maneuvered the plane up, down and around, then landed without breaking his neck. It was the third airplane flight anywhere in Wisconsin and the first by an airplane made in this state.

Many more Wisconsin homebuilts have followed. Many of them will be parked in the grass at Oshkosh this week.

By coincidence, the US Navy will be displaying a replica of the Curtiss floatplane that made the first takeoff from a naval vessel also in 1911. Except for the floats, it’s all but identical to the plane John Schwister completed in Wausau one hundred years ago.

–Michael Goc

 

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Celebrating George: Celebrating Art

July 21, 2011

George Ray McCormick, Sr. stands in front of two carvings from the “Four Horsemen” Series,” 2008 (Collection of Deana McCormick). Photo courtesy of Terry McCormick Gallery.

By Evelyn Patricia Terry

George Ray McCormick Sr.–my life partner, my good friend, and as my son says my “road dog”–transitioned on July 30, 2009. To honor our joint creative impulses, I founded the Terry McCormick Gallery that same year. Needed repairs to the gallery porches, kitchen floors and basement, along with other perceived failures and hardships, like accomplishing the publication of my first book bogged me down this year. Desperately desiring success, I avoided opening the gallery.

Lately I learned, by listening to many self-empowerment conversations and recordings, that embracing perceived failure is a necessary component to any success story. I then realized that George’s transition date aligned perfectly with July’s Gallery Day in Milwaukee, a synchronistic moment that trumped my gridlocked thought pattern. Subsequently, I am hosting a reception on July 30, 2011 and exploring options for completion of my book “Permission to Paint, Please! 150 Year Celebration of African American Artists Connected to Wisconsin.”

This realization allows the honoring of my goal to make available, to the public, George’s artwork and that of the other gallery artists, Shana R. Goetsch, Ras `Ammar Nsoroma, Ktinsley and Jacqueline A. Richards.

George Ray McCormick, Sr., “Adam and Eve Series: Cupid Speaks,” 31” x 11” x 11,” Painted, woodburned carved wood, found objects and welded steel, 2007, (Collection of Paul Phelps). Photo: Larry Sanders.

George’s remaining artwork includes spiritual and secular subjects in woodcuts, garden and large bug-like creatures, ink and pencil drawings (exploring sexuality and depression) and woodburned painted carvings (featuring his last series–roosters). His family retained many of his pieces and collectors acquired work through ongoing sales–such as those hosted by the Jazz Gallery and the Center for Spiritual Living.

George deeply desired to have his artwork valued and “paid for” by avid contemporary folk art collectors and museums. He resolutely avoided being taken advantage of after reading how African-American contemporary folk artists often were. Notebooks and entries on bits of paper preserve some of George’s thoughts indicating his personal struggles with “trust,” “God” and “evil.”

Throughout our eleven-year relationship, he also struggled with health issues. Diet changes, to predominantly vegetable-based protein, facilitated his recovery from cancer (twice), arthritis, and blindness in one eye from a stroke. His greatest challenge was drastic blood pressure fluctuations. My research shows managing one’s thoughts, diet and proper sleep drastically impact blood pressure control.  George’s intense commitment to mastering the guitar led him to research and practice into the night. A resulting aneurysm, too soon for me, ended his struggles. Without him “going places” is less interesting. I content myself with completing goals and exploring informative concepts like the law of attraction and the ability to control one’s life by one’s thoughts–a rich exciting opportunity.

Shana R. Goetsch, "Tributary 3" (detail), Collograph prints on paper, 2 feet x 65 yards, 2011. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As for other Terry McCormick Gallery artists, it is important to note that Shana just completed her MA in Community Art at Maryland Institute College of Art and is opening at the Jazz Gallery in Milwaukee, August 6, 2011, 6-9 p.m., with her thesis exhibition “3 Tributaries.” Shana R. Goetsch’s intense and provocative pieces, including 4,000 individual prints of row houses on one sheet of paper, challenge us to visually and emotionally connect to 4,000 victims of domestic violence. (You can also see her work in PortalWisconsin.org’s online gallery.)

Ras `Ammar Nsoroma with “Thought, Speech, Action,” (1 panel of 14), 4' x 8,' Acrylic on board, 201l. Photo: Elisabeth Miller.

Ammar recently completed a project of 14 panels for the Franklin Square Apartments spearheaded by Melissa Goins of Maures Development group. Ammar, the lead artist for accomplishing ten murals in conjunction with youth employed by Artworks for Milwaukee, Inc., created the last four, independently, in April.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "And God Loves You, Too," 24" x 16," Screenprint (edition 125-few remain), 1979. Photo: Vernessa Weatherall.

Open to the public, Terry McCormick Gallery hosts “George Ray McCormick, Sr. Celebration” at 2522 North 18th Street on Saturday, July 30 from 1 p.m.–5 p.m.

Gallery Night and Day sites to view my artwork  are: Friday, I will be present for my continuing exhibition at Cuvée’s featuring a winding down of  “One Hundred Dollar Special Sale,” at 177 North Broadway from 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m.

Selections from “Finding Peace Prayer,” an abstract collage series, are exhibited during Peltz Gallery’s “21st Annual Remarkable Women Show 2011.” Located at 1119 East Knapp Street, the hours on Gallery Night are 6 p.m.–9:30 p.m. and on Gallery Day are 11:00 a.m.–4:00 pm.

Jose Alfredo Chavez produced this video, after learning of George’s transition, in time for his memorial service. For more information visit evelynpatriciaterry.com.

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Brian Wicklund and the Barley Jacks

July 13, 2011

Music has never been finer. That would be a take on my concert experience two weeks ago. I could have stayed all night.

Let me explain. I went to Brian Wicklund’s camp in Marine on St. Croix in June. Ninety-five budding musicians met in a church 6 hours a day for 4 days in hopes of coming out the other side challenged, motivated, and inspired. This is the third year of the camp and it continues to escalate in number of participants. The ages ranged from 6 to ……let’s just say gray-haired. We don’t need to go there. There were fiddlers, mandolin players, guitarists and my group…the bass players. Okay, I’m not really a bass player. I took my cello and pretended to be a bass player for the week. Personally, I think I was in the coolest group. There is a cool factor to the bass group no matter where you are. This week was no exception particularly with Kevin Rowe at the helm. The man is amazing with a bass.

Anyway, the camp culminated in St. Croix Falls with two spectacular concerts. The first happened at the Overlook. If you have never been to St. Croix Falls you have missed out. Someone at sometime was smart enough to realize that a stage overlooking the St. Croix River and the Falls would be a marvelous idea and they completed it. Now on Friday evenings throughout the summer concerts occur at the spot. What a crowd drawer and pleaser. So the first concert of the night happened here and consisted of 95 amateur musicians along with their instructors playing 9 new songs all learned during camp. I may be partial but I thought it sounded magnificent. Of course on a beautiful summer evening, it could have been one scratchy beginner violin and the location still would have made it all worthwhile.

The second concert occurred a little while later across the street at the Festival Theater; a gem of a spot once again totally supported by a volunteer staff. The theater is charming and holds approximately 250 seats. I love old theaters and the thought that a community cares enough to see its beauty, opting to restore and maintain a piece of history instead of tearing down and building new makes me happy. The St. Croix Festival Theater exemplifies that concept. The theater was initially built in the early 1900’s for traveling theater and opera companies. It then became a movie theater but was restored back to its original intention in the 1990’s. The first floor houses the box office, public restrooms and a concession stand while the theater itself is on the second floor. It’s charming, absolutely charming. If you want to read more about the history, check it out at http://www.festivaltheatre.org/about.htm#history.

On the night of June 24th, the concert was billed as “The Fiddle Masters” but it was so much more. The concert was really Brian Wicklund and the Barley Jacks with the addition of the fiddle camp instructors. The whole thing rocked. The Barley Jacks (Brian Wicklund – fiddle, Kevin Rowe – bass, Joe Cruz – guitar, and Joel Arpin – percussion) are a wonderful mixture of blue grass, swing, R&B, and blues. The energy is contagious. They are a combination of well written lyrics and hot instrumentals. You don’t want them to ever stop. In terms of the other “master fiddlers”, the stage was also shared by April Verch and Randy Sabien. Typically when one sees a group of three fiddlers they are all similar and it is obvious that each are at about the same level or that there is a leader with two other “backups”. This was so not the case this night. Each fiddler has their own area of expertise. Not one would consider themself better than the other and yet each can provide something the other two can’t.I love watching musicians go drop mouth on the stage as they try and figure out how the person in front of them just produced the string of notes. Truly it can be like an Olympic event. April Verch is a stellar musician. I ran across a CD of her’s about 6 years ago after reading about it in a string magazine. I have never heard a fiddler play as clearly as she does. You can hear every note no matter how fast they fly out the end of the instrument. Oh, and did I mention that she is cute as a button and every bit as nice. When it comes to Randy, I hate to admit that he continues to get better but he does. The songs may have the same titles as those he has played in the past but the songs are not the same. The learning curve has not leveled off.

Joining these three was the remaining staff of the camp. Hannah Kalisch (fiddle), Ben Winship (mandolin), and Bill Cagley (guitar). All three added not only to the excitement on the the stage that evening but also to the success of the music camp and the possibility of 95 new faces on the theater stage some time in the future.

Final thoughts:

1. St. Croix Festival Theater – a true gem, go enjoy the Overlook and then cross the street and enter another time in history.

2. The Barley Jacks – look up their concert schedule and travel to wherever they are playing, you won’t be disappointed.

3. April Verch – I have never been to an April Verch stand alone concert but I can only imagine that everyone leaves there smiling and tapping their toes. If you have ever considered going to a music camp on the fiddle, figure out where she is an instructor and sign up.

D. Quigley


All in a Wisconsin Summer Day

July 10, 2011

My best summer days are unplanned, unhurried, and usually contain some sort of unexpected gift–like riding bikes along Lake Monona on a perfect evening, sharing a local brew in the backyard with neighbors, or maybe discovering a new favorite eating spot. But often Madison, where I live, offers up such a bounty of cultural delights that we need to strategize a little.

In Madison, Art Fair on the Square and Art Fair off the Square take place annually in July.

Yesterday was such a day, with three of our favorite summer events occurring in one weekend: the Saturday Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Art Fairs On and Off the Square, and La Fete de Marquette. (Actually, that’s four events, with the two art fairs running side by side.)

Whenever we can, we get up early Saturday mornings and bike the three miles to Capitol Square, where the Dane County Farmers’ Market  is held. Now approaching its 40th anniversary, the DCFM is the largest producer-only market in the nation, which means every vendor, behind every table piled with flowers or vegetables, breads or cheeses, grew or baked or prepared their wares themselves. This week, we came home with green beans, tomatoes, raspberries and zucchini for our dinner table.

For us, a visit to the market has to include a stop at the Graze pastry cart for a cup of coffee and a bite of delicious, just-baked flakiness. Graze always presents a variety, but as usual I enjoyed the mushroom and spinach bun, while my husband got his Pain au Chocolat fix.  (We tell ourselves the bike ride offsets the buttery indulgence.)

On Art Fair weekend, the farmers’ market gets displaced a block so that participating artists can set up their booths on the four blocks surrounding the Square. We had timed our farmers’ market visit perfectly, which allowed us to take in the booths before afternoon crowds swelled. At Art Fair On the Square, more than 450 artists from around the country display works in all media. This year, jewelry and handbags made of recycled inner tubing caught my eye, as did affordable art-themed t-shirts by Madison’s Wildwood Productions. The fair benefits the Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (MMoCA), always free and open to the public.

The Madison Area High School Ceramists sell pots, pitchers, cups and bowls at Art Fair Off the Square.

At Art Fair Off the Square, I scored a lovely ceramic plate at the Madison Area High School Ceramists booth. An annual favorite, the booth displays and sells works by, you guessed it, Madison area high school ceramists.  I like knowing that 80 percent of my purchase went to Jenna, the young artist who made my plate, and the remaining 20 percent supports Madison public school art programs. In fact, at Art Fair off the Square, along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and on the Monona Terrace Convention Center Esplanade, every booth features the works of Wisconsin artists.

We actually had time to finish a home painting project and run some weekend errands before heading to La Fete de Marquette, also a short bike ride away. A celebration of French music and culture, this annual festival never fails to do Madison’s Marquette neighborhood proud. Top-notch performers from throughout the French-speaking world, along with some of the city’s best eateries, provide four days of French-themed fun. Relatively new to the festival is La Tente de Dance, a dance floor dedicated to Quebecois and Cajun dance. The fest also showcases the vibrant personality of Madison’s East Side, for some of the best people-watching all year. We felt lucky to see Maraca, a Cuban jazz band that had the whole crowd moving. (Sometimes the connection to France isn’t immediately apparent, but who minded? Not me.)

Both art fairs and the Marquette festival continue through today, July 10.

*****

I may be based in Madison, but I also manage PortalWisconsin.org’s online events calendar, so I know communities in all 72 Wisconsin counties hold their own summer markets, fairs and festivals. This weekend alone, you’ll find a polka festival in Ellsworth, a pow-wow in Lac du Flambeau, or for those who like it large, Milwaukee’s grand Summerfest and Rhinelander’s star-studded Hodag Country Music Festival.  Art fests abound everywhere as well. To find them, consult the calendar–or for a print copy of this year’s Wisconsin Arts Board Art and Craft Fair Directory, call  1-800-432-8747 between 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

And please, let us know what makes your local fair or festival special. We love hearing from you.

–Tammy Kempfert